Archive for December, 2009

Quick Check-In

Just a quick check-in from the winter wonderland of New Jersey. We’re out here on our annual holiday vacation visiting Rob’s side of the family, and having a great time. Hope you all had a wonderful holiday and are anticipating the new year with joy and hope.

Rob and I are preparing for a talk we’re doing on Sacred Simplicity on January 9th. I think I’m going to go back and check out some of my own meditations on the topic from 2008 (“The Complexity of Simplicity” Parts One, Two, Three, and Four)…regardless, we’re excited to be speaking together again. The last time we did a talk together was for an LMU retreat. We spoke to about 60 college students about Sacred Sexuality. I love speaking with Rob, and I think we make a great team. Now it’s just a matter of getting our thoughts organized on paper!

Finally, we’ve also been spending some of these last days of 2009 considering our blessings from this year and our hopes for the next. We’re excitedly thinking about our future garden, about ordering bees, about expanding our family (both animal and human). 2009 was quite an adventure, and now with our new homestead, I am certain that 2010 holds many memories yet to be made.

I love this time of year because of all the potential it holds. So many things held in the tension of hope and wondering.  So many opportunities yet unknown. Fears will be conquered, barriers will be crossed, all while we continue the journey of expanding ever-outward. So, as we journey together into 2010, I pray that we each have the courage to go willingly where God takes us. Sometimes that’s scary, sometimes exciting, but always blessed.

Advent

This wouldn’t be a proper Christian blog without an Advent reflection. It’s interesting–each year, I find that God leads me down different reflective paths for Advent, Lent, and the (non-liturgical) New Year.  This year I find my Advent has been centered around reflections of pregnancy.

Of course, I’m not blind to the fact that this is closely tied to our place in life right now: trying to start a family, praying each month that it is the month that we will become parents. But I also think that pregnancy is one of the most important aspects of Advent.

After all, our entire lives are filled with pregnancies. Man and woman, we are pregnant with dream,  goals, and hopes. We are bringing our co-creativeness to birth each and every moment. We anticipate.

There is an inevitability with pregnancy, especially as birth approaches: our whole lives are about to change, and it is only the passage of time that separates us from our lives now and our lives to come.  There is an unknowingness about pregnancy. Will bringing this change to birth be painful? Scary? Dangerous? Will I know what to do once it happens? Will I mess it up?

In Romans, Paul says that “the whole world has been groaning in labor pains until now.” Yes…yes. We groan as we go through the cycle of anticipation, pain, rejoicing, fear.  At the time of Christ’s birth, whole world was pregnant with the hope of better things, of God showing Godself, of peace. In some ways, Mary was not the only one pregnant with Christ. The womb of creation was in a state of preparation. Of anticipation. And yes, the delivery of this hope held it’s fair amount of pain.

But, like true childbirth, the glory of the miracle wipes away the pain of labor. The preparation and anticipation becomes critical, for once the child arrives there is little opportunity to continue to prepare.

This Advent, I consider the ways that God has placed me in a state of anticipation and preparation. This whole year has been preparing the way for our current state: this home, this town, this life. Now we are to prepare in new ways–plan the garden, order the bees, find places for the contents of boxes still unpacked, save our money, learn the community.

The cycle begins anew.

This is what Advent reminds us of each year: the ways in which God prepares our hearts, and our responsibility to continue to cultivate that state of preparation. Our lives serve as Bethlehem over and over again. Do we create space for God to be born within us? Or do we say “No room!”?

An Interesting Perspective

An interesting look at the food crisis. The main thing I notice they don’t address is one of the sticking points of the whole dispute, and that’s the use of GMO crops. On one hand, they can help solve the short-term crisis. On the other hand, they have far reaching effects that we can’t even comprehend when we first use them (how they might affect migration patterns, for example, or how resistant pests may spring up as a result). In any case, it’s something to think about. And I like the concept of a more collaborative, rather than combative, attitude. I just worry that the Almighty Dollar will always want to have the last word.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1IWkbU0SG4&feature=player_embedded

Dawn

We’ve finally begun to settle into an early morning routine. I’m still getting used to waking up at 5am, but despite my eye-rubbing and sleepy blinking, I have to say it’s well worth it.

I put the coffee percolator on the stove and make Rob breakfast, pack his lunch, and then settle in for a few quiet moments with my husband before he leaves. It’s still dark out. We sit at the kitchen table as he eats, enjoying the silence and the glimmerings of the sunrise to come. We pull our coats around us…it’s colder here than we’re used to. Yet the last few days have been a little warmer–it was 32 degrees when I got up this morning. I never thought I’d see the day when I thought that was warm, but life changes your perspective on so many things.

Finally it’s time for Rob to leave, and I wait at the window until I can’t see his taillights break through the darkness any more. Then I pour myself another cup of hot coffee and go back to the kitchen table, settling in for the show. It’s one of my favorite things about this house: the morning spectacular.

Our kitchen window faces east, and although there’s nothing but countryside as far as the eye can see, the little plots of land are nestled in rolling golden hills. So as the sunlight begins to slowly stretch across the sky, the hilltops turn bright pink and forshadow what is to befall the rest of the land. It’s gorgeous. If we’re lucky enough to have a cloud or two in the sky at sunrise, the sky looks as if it’s lit on fire. The dark hues of night slowly turn into a lighter and lighter blue, and when the sun finally breaks over the hills the whole countryside turns golden.

This is about the time when our black cat, Midnight, finds the sunniest spot possible and curls up on the floor to soak it in. This is also about the time when I am most jealous of him.

It is these still, brilliant mornings that make me understand why I longed for this life. My inner contemplative is deeply nourished. I still feel like I am living in a retreat house. Like our land at dawn, I feel as if I am slowly waking up to an unspeakable beauty just ahead.

Doing What’s Necessary

This weekend I learned more about wielding a ultility knife, a crowbar, and caulking than I ever anticipated in these early weeks of our time on the homestead.  When we bought the house–which is about 60 years old–we knew that we wanted to replace the carpet in the bathroom and completely remodel the guest bathroom. What we didn’t know was that we’d be doing it almost immediately. Who knew that the combination of roots in a plumbing line and dried wax seals could cause such a mess?

Yet it’s actually been okay. That’s not to say it has been easy…there have definitely been some scary moments, and more than a few gross moments. But there have also been some intangible benefits of our little plumbing disaster. For one, Rob and I continue to grow in the affirmation that we are better as a team than alone. I’m so grateful for his partnership in all of this. We really did pull together to do what needed to be done.  And I think both of us went above and beyond what we thought we were capable of doing. Yesterday, for example, we ripped the rotting, water-damaged wood paneling off of the guest bathroom walls. It needed to be done. But it was an incredibly daunting task. We also moved a cast-iron clawfoot bathtub out of the bathroom and into the garage all by ourselves (that’s a heavy sucker). We didn’t really think too much about whether or not we should do it; we had to. Sometimes you just have to do what’s necessary.

We’ve gotten the master bath fixed up pretty nicely. We laid in new flooring and replaced the toilet. We still need to stain one piece of floorboard and the threshhold piece and then set them in place. But by and large, I’m pretty proud of our handiwork.

The guest bath is going to be a work-in-progress for quite a while. But I’m alright with that. After all, it continues to be part of this wonderful adventure–scary, stressful, but empowering. It brings another level of meaning to having dignity in the work of our hands. In fact, I’ve been meditating a lot on what it has meant that we’ve done this work ourselves instead of throwing up our hands, moving out for a few days, and hiring a contractor to make it magically transform. There’s value in doing this work. There’s an intimacy we feel with this house. An unanticipated blessing.

Day by Day

This week has been an eventful one. After the snowstorm, my sickness just kept going downhill.  For the first time since I had mono, I just couldn’t fight it off without help. I think a lot of it had to do with lots of stress and little sleep–stuff that I can usually let roll off my back but that just couldn’t be avoided this time around.

Amidst it all, the aftermath of the snowstorm brought about a plumbing surprise. I think it was a combination of things going wrong all at once: the wax seals on both of our toilets breaking because they’d dried out during the 250+ days that the house was empty; a bunch of roots had gotten in our main plumbing line; a downspout positioned right over our septic tank, pouring hundreds of gallons of water into the ground (I know this figure to be true, because yesterday we collected two 30 gallon garbage pails of water in about 5 hours as the snow melted).

In any case, without going into gross detail, our bathrooms were rendered useless and we were stuck ripping out the soggy, nasty carpet in the bathroom. Why anyone would have carpet in the bathroom is beyond me, but that’s how we bought the house. We were planning on changing it out as soon as possible, but necessity stepped in and we got our wish a little early.

So after two consectutive days of plumbing visits, lots of manual labor, and lots of fretting, I’m cautiously optimistic that our plumbing nightmare is over. Now it’s just a matter of dealing with the clean-up, and most of the nasty cleanup is over. We’re in the midst of installing new (tile) flooring, and I think the second bathroom is going to get an entire makeover. But we’ve learned to take things one step and a time. We go day by day. I’m usually pretty good about being a “big picture” person, but sometimes the big picture is a little too overwhelming. Sometimes you have to just put one foot in front of the other, and that’s about all you can handle.

As I write this, the sun is coming up over the hills and breaking through rain clouds. The snow is melting and I see birds dancing through our trees outside. I remember why we moved here in the first place.

I’m looking forward to feeling settled. There are still lots of boxes to unpack and lots of work to be done. And all this before we ever get our hands dirty in the earth or look through chicken-raising books to decide on what breed to get. But it will come. It will come. We’re just taking it one day at a time.

Baptism By Snow

Our internet was finally hooked up yesterday before the big snowstorm hit, which means I will be able to post more regularly as we settle into our new homestead. I had thought that it had really snowed the morning of the move in…boy was I wrong! I had nothing to compare it to–until yesterday. Man, oh man.

The weather was stormy but fairly mild, all things considered, until about 2:45 pm. And then it hit. And a half hour later, with no signs of letting up, I couldn’t even see our driveway anymore. All I could see was white, white, white.

The temperature when we woke up this morning was a balmy 21 degrees. I realize that for some, this is mild, but for a Los Angeles gal, I’ve rarely seen it dip below 40 in any place I’ve lived. And over the past 11 years, when I’ve lived near the beach, it wouldn’t even dip below 50 very often. So 21 is cold. But I have a little confession to make.

I loved every minute of it.

It was as if I was privy to a secret that this house held. The beauty of the land is ever-changing. The view from our house as the sun rose was something for which no house-hunting venture could have ever prepared me. Wow. 

And this is our home now. Our home.

I looked out the kitchen window this morning and saw a blanket of white softly covering our neighbors’ farms and ranches. As I looked at the trees, I thought of the spray-painted white Christmas trees sold on tree lots and realized how short they came of the real deal. Thick icicles hung from our rooftop. I walked out to get a few pictures, and the snow came up to my shins. It was amazing.